DALLAS (AP)– According to the league-mandated pregame information released by the Lakers, Kobe Bryant would replace the suspended Ron Artest at small forward, with Shannon Brown starting at shooting guard for Game 3 of their series against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.
According to Lamar Odom, he expected to start in Artest’s place.
As for the voice that matters most, Lakers coach Phil Jackson wasn’t saying.
“You know I’m not going to say anything about that,” Jackson said following a midday shootaround. “Why would you even ask?”
Headed to retirement after this postseason, Jackson seemed to enjoy playing a game of who-will-it-be?
Jackson noted that Odom hasn’t played small forward this season and wondered aloud whether Odom has ever played small forward in the six years they’ve been together.
“But, you know, he could do it tonight,” Jackson said, smiling.
Then Jackson remembered having put Odom at that spot for a few minutes this season — during a blowout loss to Cleveland just before the All-Star break. His memory was jogged by suggestions that he might put the 6-foot-10 Odom alongside 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum for a humongous frontcourt.
“I hope we can use it,” Jackson said.
With Jackson throwing so many pro-Odom hints, why did the game notes say something else?
“It may be right, it may be wrong,” he said, smiling again. “We have to put a roster in for the NBA. That’s something they require. I don’t know why, but it has to go in. So our (PR department) did their job for us.”
Jackson also said — straight-faced — that Matt Barnes and Luke Walton will see some time at small forward.
“We have plenty of players to play the (position),” Jackson said. “We’re not worried about that.”
Artest was suspended for one game for slamming a forearm into the face of Dallas guard J.J. Barea with 24 seconds left in Game 2.
Artest had started all 90 games for Los Angeles this season, so Jackson hasn’t needed a Plan B. This is no time for experimenting because the two-time defending champion Lakers were in quite a bind after losing the first two games at home. A loss Friday night would put them down 0-3, a deficit no team in NBA history has overcome.
Odom was named the Sixth Man of the Year this season, so moving him into the starting lineup seems logical, except that he hasn’t started at small forward since he played for the Clippers, which was 1999-2003.
“We all know each other, we’ve played with each other and we know what to expect,” Odom said. “We’ll just go out and try to win a basketball game.”
Odom said he could handle it defensively because “it’s not like they play a lot of isolation ball with their small forward anyway.” Shawn Marion is Dallas’ starting small forward, with Peja Stojakovic backing him up.
Bryant said he hasn’t been told he is starting at small forward. To him, the bigger issue is not having Artest for 30-plus minutes.
“He’s such a physical force,” Bryant said. “Defensively, he sticks to guys and he gets a lot of loose balls, offensive rebounds to give us second possessions, steals, knocking balls loose. We’re going to miss that energy.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said he was expecting Odom to play more.
“And he’s one of their best players, so that could be a positive thing for them,” Carlisle said. “I’m sure they’ll be fine. Our rotation, we’ll adjust accordingly. … We’ve got to play our game.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)